Service Designers have become one of the hottest profiles in the Company Building Ecosystem in the past few years. The reaffirmation of human-centered design as an effective tool to design new products and solve complex problems has impacted its positioning. However, there are still many doubts about what does it mean to be a Service Designer, what do they do, and how to become one. Taking into account all of these questions and considering the new Service Designer role we just launched, we wanted to share our perspective on the topic.
In this blog post we will talk about the role of Service Designers at Polymath Ventures, the critical role they have in our company building process, and what do they do during the first twelve weeks of a new co-build. Take a look and if you get excited check our open position and apply.
Who are they?
Service Designers are highly creative, empathic, and human-centric individuals that enjoy designing solutions to positively impact people. To be successful as a Service Designer, you do not need a specific academic background or experience, but you must own a series of critical characteristics and basic knowledge that will allow you to increase your value at any design team, including ours.
Tim Brown, Chair of IDEO shared his view on the Service Designer personality profile in his Harvard Business Review article published in 2008. Starting from there, we combined some of his input with our perspective on the mix of behaviors and personality traits a Service Designer should have.
– Empathy: By taking a people-first approach, service designers can unlock transformative insights that can lead to innovation. They prioritize the user’s point of view and become guardians of it to make sure that at every stage of the design process the team is responding to them.
– Integrative thinking: They own the ability to expand their analysis process to consider the most noticeable aspects of a problem and create novel solutions that truly respond to the needs and expectations of their customers.
– Optimism: When there is uncertainty, Service Designers see opportunities to explore and find new answers. They always assume there is at least one valid solution to surpass the existing alternatives.
– Experimentalism: True Service Designers embrace experimentation as the right mechanism to learn and pursue truth. At Polymath, Service Designers are Entrepreneurs with a scientific approach because we believe the best way to learn is through testing and constant iteration.
– Collaboration: Designing impactful products, services and experiences require multiple points of view, it is not a one-person job. Service Designers prioritize collaborative thinking in which each member contributes, this allows others to think differently and encourage everyone to bring their “whole self” to work each day.
– Growth Mindset: Great Service Designers are not just one thing, most of them have broad experience in other fields that can add elevated value to their role as Designers. For example, our Service Design team is made out of publicists, engineers, and psychologists. But most importantly they are not fixed with one path of work, they are flexible and they rapidly adjust to the ever-changing projects to continue adding value.
Besides these traits, we also expect Service Designers to bring specific knowledge on basic topics of the role.
- Previous experience leading Human-Centered Design processes
- Robust experience designing services in different industries
- Strong skills in conducting and synthesizing user research
- Empathetic and passionate about understanding users in-depth
- Good communication skills, written and verbal, in English and Spanish
What do Service Designers do?
Service Designers are key team members of our Building Teams, which usually are made of two profiles; Service Designers and Business Designers. Each of them has a role based on their strengths and expertise and they work together to build a new venture from scratch.
In this case, Service Designers lead the initial phases of the Company Building process; Ideation, and Validation, when we focus on uncovering surprising insights about our target demographic, which is the emerging middle-class in Latin America. We then translate them into business concepts and then test 3 to 4 prototypes to arrive at 1 validated concept. Once we verify desirability with prototypes, our team builds the MVP to test desirability in more depth, and validate feasibility and viability. The ultimate outcome is a functioning MVP after 2-3 learning cycles.
Considering the main objectives and deliverables of these phases, it becomes clear why we need Service Designers to conduct and execute the first twelve weeks of the project. Experienced Service Designers bring their academic background in areas such as Design, Product, Psychology, and/or Engineering to provide the needed toolkit to structure research plans, synthesize insights, and develop impactful solutions.
They also bring a set of unique characteristics that allows them to understand and solve complex problems with a human-centered approach, which prioritizes insights and behaviors above data points. At Polymath, the role of both, Business Designers and Service Designers is to translate the needs of the middle class of LatAm into a sustainable business. The main difference between them is how do they leverage their capabilities, experience, and knowledge to build the most appropriate solutions for their segment.
Service Designers: They have first-hand contact with customers to understand their needs and behaviors; lead the team to discover insights from the research, and create business concepts from these insights, and build prototypes that will help validate the assumptions that gave form to the concept. Also, they make sure that the customer’s point of view is always being considered to build or modify the solutions we offer in our ventures.
Business Designers: They translate user needs into business solutions – consider the different business elements to bring together a solution that not only is attractive to the users but also has the potential to grow into a scalable business.
Both roles must work together to bring their perspectives into an integrated solution that has greater potential to be successful.
Meet our team of Service Designers
Our Company Building methodology relies on this profile to secure the success of the first 12 weeks of the project, that is why we have assembled an extraordinary and diverse team of Service Designers who are experts in their fields and are passionate about building impactful solutions for the middle-class from scratch.
Natalie is one of the Lead Service Designers of our team, she is an expert in Human-Centered Design methodologies and the design of socially impactful solutions. She has a BSc in Management and Employment Relations from the London School of Economics and over ten years of experience working with early-stage and high-growth startups in France, the UK, Singapur, China, the US, and Kenia. Before joining Polymath she spent 2 years in Nairobi working as a Senior Strategic Designer at Think Place, a strategic design consultancy with offices in Australia, New Zeland, Singapur, and Kenia, that works with the government and positioned business to create vibrant societies, strong economics, and sustainable environments.
She joined Polymath 2 years ago as a Service Designer in Mexico City and has gone through multiple projects and roles, elevating her experience and background to solve complex problems that required her human and empathic view. Seven months ago she started leading one of the most recent co-builds of our organization, Arana, which focuses on the health tech space in Latin America.
Juan Ignacio Correa
Juan is the Director of Service Design and his role consists of leading the entire building team, meaning all Service Designers and Business Designers working on the building of new companies. He is passionate about building and his strength is to combine business fundamentals, design thinking, and engineering principles to create great impact through design-led, sustainable innovation.
Before joining Polymath he cofounded De Lápices A Cohetes, a company dedicated to providing design and engineering services, where he led the design team to work on technical problems for over a dozen different industries. Most recently he worked as part of the R&D team at Fitbit where he held the position of Research Mechanical Engineer. He holds an MBA in Design Strategy and an MFA in Design from California College of the Arts and a B.S. in Product Design Engineering from Universidad Eafit.
He has been with us for almost four years and a half and has led the construction of several of our active companies and the most recent co-builds along with leading regional corporations. His most recent role was leading the co-build team behind Ropstar, an innovative second-hand marketplace that is disrupting this multimillionaire industry.
Lucía is a Service Designer experienced in the design of legal services and the management of social responsibility programs. She has a major in Psychology with an emphasis on Development studies and Management and is passionate about leveraging human-centered design methodologies to create innovation opportunities for the public and private sector.
Before joining Polymath she worked with organizations such as Soydoy Fundacion, Davivienda Bank, and Despacio. Her most recent experience was with Háptica as a Research Expert, where she consulted Colombia’s largest social security payment provider that accounts for 43% of the total market share.
She joined in September 2020 as a Service Designer to support the creation of Ropstar, our most recent co-build with a leading corporation. In the first weeks of the project, Lucia led the research phase, designing and conducting interviews with users and experts in Colombia and Mexico, she synthesized and analyzed the outcomes building consolidated insights, customer profile, and journeys, and conceptualized the business model, working along with a group of interdisciplinary experts in the construction of the minimum viable product.
Juan Marco Rivera
Juan Marco is also part of the Service Design Team and his superpower is to bring value to users and business through a deep understanding of people and organizations. His first experiences as a professional were in the world of advertising and packaging design working with studios and agencies in Latin America, which led him to the foundation of Brodmann, a consultancy firm that helps organizations and entrepreneurs design better experiences for their clients through innovation.
Juan Marco has a major in Industrial Design and a Master’s degree in Business Innovation. He also joined the team in September 2020 and at the time he joined one of our prototyping projects along with a global insurance company looking to redefine their savings portfolio, after completing this project he moved to the Arana project, where he led the ideation phase of this new co-build.
Hector is the most recent addition to our Service Design team, he joined the team a few weeks ago to strengthen our co-building efforts and led one of the upcoming projects. He is a professional in Industrial Design and has extensive studies in UI Design and Web Design. He has over six years of experience both as a designer and educator in the field; he had various faculty positions with institutions such as Universidad Iberoamericana of Puebla and UDES, and worked along with Juan Marco at Broadmann as a Strategic Designer.
What is the superpower of Service Designers at Polymath?
Juan Ignacio: Empathy and team cohesion. As a Service Designer, my superpower is to listen and bring the users’ perspective to the project at all times. I must be certain that everyone on the team can put themselves in the shoes of our customers so that we deliver an attractive and coherent value proposition.
As a team lead, I work hard to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard and considered as we create new business solutions. It’s important that we all feel like we’re contributing to the solutions and that everyone acknowledges that the rest of the team has great value to add.
“Secret superpower: I’m hilarious!”
Lucía: The superpower I bring to the team is empathy and perspective. I ensure that we keep the users that we’re designing for at the core of the businesses we’re creating while visualizing the bigger picture, connecting the dots, and aligning different perspectives.
Hector: In my view, a key superpower Service Designers should have is without a doubt the ability to change lens and zoom in or zoom out at any stage of the design process. It can be a zoom-in to focus on the design of the best icon to showcase the status of a digital experience or to zoom out to do a visual mapping of the product and understand the functioning of the user experience. It should also be able to go further and zoom out to understand how the product or service is interacting within a specific context.
“I call this superpower the micro and macroscopic view”.
The future for Service Designers
Design Thinking has become a powerful tool for companies looking to create lasting value for their customers. It has the potential to generate great impact in innovation; unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.
The role of Service Designers in the adoption of Design Thinking is crucial to secure the right implementation of this methodology. Having them in your project will warranty that your client’s needs and expectations are being prioritized at every stage of the design process, which is the first step to enhance your own business.
Building for emerging markets requires a different approach, it is not like building in Silicon Valley, so how you design, launch and fund companies need to look different. That is why Service Designers have a key role in our organization, it is our way to secure that we are keeping our demographic as a priority.